While the seeds have been dropping like flies, the defending champion, Petra Kvitova is sticking around in Madrid and is beginning to showcase some of her best form of the year. Kvitova will face an Australian Open rematch against Daria Gavrilova in the third round of the Mutua Madrid Open on Wednesday.
Kvitova had an unsettled start to the year, picking up a stomach virus in her first tournament of the year in Shenzhen and then splitting with coach, David Kotyza after the Australian swing. The Czech player had a 2-6 W-L record through the first two months of the year. However since then, Kvitova has really picked up her form with a new coach, Frantisek Cermak, now in place. Since Indian Wells, Kvitova’s record for the year has improved to 11-9 and this includes two straight set wins in Madrid over Lara Arruabarrena (6-3 6-2) and Elena Vesnina (6-3 6-3).
The win over Vesnina, a first match-up against the Russian player, was a very solid showing against an in-form player. Vesnina has won 14 matches at her last three tournaments and is enjoying a supreme run on tour right now. It won’t be long until she’s back into the main draws of tournaments and i’m excited to see what she can do on the grass. In this match though, she went toe-to-toe with Kvitova a little too much and couldn’t find the right balance to unsettle the Czech player. Kvitova finished with 32 winners and 20 unforced errors, and didn’t drop serve once despite finishing with just 47% of first serves in.
There’s been a noticeable change from Kvitova to inject a little bit more variety into her game. I’ve always felt Kvitova had excellent technique on her volleys, but it seemed to me it was something she had shied away from in recent years. I’m actually seeing the benefits of her new coaching arrangement and I do think, looking back now, it was time for something different. She looks as fit as she has ever done on a tennis court and finally the results are starting to come. I say it ever year but… Petra’s going to win Wimbledon :-).
Gavrilova is coming back to some form after a ropey spell between the Australian Open and Miami. She suffered a 1-6 0-6 loss in Dubai to Ana Ivanovic (this literally feels like last year!) and lost matches in Indian Wells and Miami to Magdalena Rybarikova (6-2 5-7 4-6) and Zarina Diyas (5-7 3-6) respectively having failed to serve out sets in both matches. Gavrilova played much better in Charleston, gaining revenge on Diyas in the first round and then securing a surprisingly routine win over Shuai Zhang.
Gavrilova’s victory over Elina Svitolina in the second round of Madrid was her best win since the Australian Open. The Aussie had that spring in her step back, playing aggressively with superb intensity, and also unsettling Svitolina with flashes of variety. Most impressive was that she held her nerve serving at scoreboard pressure at *4-5 and *5-6 in the second set and looked confident in herself.
Head-to-head record: Kvitova and Gavrilova are tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head; Kvitova won their match in Wuhan, 6-3 4-6 7-5, where Gavrilova had served for the win. The Aussie got her win at the Australian Open earlier this year, 6-4 6-4.
Final thoughts: Kvitova will be fully aware of the threat that Gavrilova poses having played two tough matches against the Aussie. Gavrilova’s intensity and ability to absorb pace and mix up her shots can make life difficult for Kvitova. The Czech player was perhaps still bothered by the virus in Melbourne so i’d expect a much improved performance in this encounter. I like how Kvitova is playing right now and the conditions are obviously ideal for her game. The danger is there, but i’d actually fancy P3tra to stay at home. I’m going for a straights sets victory…